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Dagger Island, seagrass restoration get $250K boost

An aerial view of Dagger Island in Aransas pass. The island, which has eroded into a chain of smaller islands, is being restored. Courtesy image

A system for protecting important seagrass beds in Redfish Bay around Dagger Island got a big boost of $250,000 in September from the Coastal Conservation Association Texas and its national habitat program, the Building Conservation Trust. Redfish Bay has the northernmost extensive stands of seagrass on the Texas coast and is but one of three remaining bays that house all five species of native seagrass in Texas.

The money will help the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Ducks Unlimited, the world's largest nonprofit waterfowl habitat conservation group, continue a TPWD-created protection master plan for the shoreline of Dagger and Ransom islands.

Dagger Island in Aransas Pass has been an iconic tourist and fishing destination for generations. Years of natural and manmade activities, however, have led to its erosion.

What used to be a nearly continuous island that ran from the confluence of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Corpus Christi Ship Channel to Ransom Island in Redfish Bay has degraded into a chain of smaller islands, leaving large stands of seagrasses, vital to water quality in the bay, unprotected.

TPWD in partnership with Ducks Unlimited will design and oversee project construction. Ducks Unlimited built 0.71 miles of breakwater and 1.17 miles of containment levee to prepare for the future placement of dredge material to restore 25 acres of Dagger Island. The group also added 0.55 miles of breakwater to protect an adjacent island.

Wetland restoration will benefit not only waterfowl and fisheries but also the communities around them, according to Ducks Unlimited Director of Development Matt Bunn.

“The Redfish Bay area has superior recreational opportunities for people to enjoy,” Bunn said. “Having partners like CCA and BCT make restoring wetlands in this area possible.”

Together, the partners worked to enhance 5,236 acres of seagrass beds, intertidal wetlands, and coastal islands in the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area.

The project to restore and protect portions of Dagger Island will help protect seagrasses and other essential wetlands from wave energy caused by winds and large-vessel traffic on the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. These seagrass beds are vital for waterfowl and fisheries resources, which include finfish, shrimp, blue crab and sea turtles.

Paul Silva, TPWD natural resource specialist and project manager, stated that the degradation and loss of these islands have concerned the department for years.

“Because of the ecological and economical significance of this area, TPWD is also concerned about the shoreline erosion on Dagger and Ransom Islands and the subsequent impacts on nearby seagrass beds if these islands continue to erode,” Silva said. “Ducks Unlimited’s wetland restoration expertise and ability to leverage funding makes them a tremendous partner for us in efforts like this one.”

This project was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, CCA Texas, BCT, and Ducks Unlimited.

According to Patrick Murray, president of CCA National, restoring this iconic area will ensure that future generations can enjoy everything it has to offer.

“Dagger Island has provided generations of anglers with incredibly productive places to fish,” Murray said. “We are truly proud and excited to be partners with Ducks Unlimited and TPWD on this innovative project.”

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the largest nonprofit organization in the world whose mission is to conserve North America's continually dwindling waterfowl habitats. Since 1937, it has conserved more than 15 million acres thanks to donations from over a million supporters across the continent. Using science as a guide and its dedication to program efficiency, Ducks Unlimited aims to establish sufficient wetlands to fill the skies with waterfowl today and in the future.

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